ALTON – While many romanticize the world of riding rails and making way from town to town for free (albeit with a bit of danger), Alton Police Chief Jake Simmons said two men recently arrested after a dog attacked an officer at the S Mart parking lot on Broadway were nothing like the hobos sung of in folk songs of old.

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Justin B. White, 28, originally of Overland Park, Kansas, and William H. Hunter, 29, of Copperas Cove, Texas, were suspected of being behind several calls to the Alton Police Department since stepping off a train off College Avenue last week. Those calls include several “suspicious persons” along the Beltline and Broadway as well as an incident at the newly-reopened Chubby's Bar and Grill where Simmons said Hunter placed a large knife on a table “Crocodile Dundee-style” after management told them they were not allowed in the establishment with the dogs. A member of the bar's staff took the large knife and chased the men from the premises before calling police, which resulted in a charge of disorderly conduct against Hunter.

The next day, the rail-hopping duo were sleeping in the open expanse of the parking lot of the S Mart next door to Chubby's with two dogs, who appeared to be pit bull mixes, on leashes next to them. Police arrived to the scene after being called and discovered the two men sleeping next to the dogs. One of those dogs reportedly bit the responding officer in the arm and sent them to an area hospital for treatment.

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Following that incident, both men were charged with criminal trespassing at the S Mart.

It was also discovered by authorities the two dogs were stolen. One was taken from Texas and the other from Steelville, Missouri. The attacking dog is being held for 10 days before being returned to its owner. The other dog is being returned to its owner as soon as possible.

In response to these men being homeless, Simmons said “homelessness is not a police problem, it is a community problem.”

“These guys aren't just riding the rails to go town-to-town because they need a home,” he said. “They are something like professional panhandlers. This is a way of life for them. We got calls from the Beltline and Broadway of these guys asking people for money. They just really like this lifestyle, and if people don't want to find help getting a home or their life back together, they won't get it. Some people just genuinely enjoy the freedom of living this way.”

Outside of the charges at Chubby's and the S Mart, the men are suspected of pedestrian under the influence, and criminal trespassing at 1902 Homer Adams Parkway, according to a release sent by the Alton Police Department to Riverbender.com.

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